03/02/2013, 00.00
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Execution of drug barons broadcast live on TV, applause and condemnation on Chinese web

The state television CCTV broadcast the last moments of four bosses, sentenced to death for the killing of 13 fishermen in Thai territory. The cameras followed them to threshold of the death chamber. For decades, executions have had no "public” value. Human rights activists critical.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Heated debate has gripped China's web and social media following the decision of Chinese authorities to broadcast on live TV the final moments ahead of the execution of four people sentenced to death for murder and drug trafficking. Among those executed was Burmese Naw Kham, considered one of kingpins of the "Golden Triangle" drug world that encompasses Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, the epicenter of world's opium crops. The sentence was carried out yesterday in Kunming, Yunnan Province, by lethal injection.

In November, four men - a Burmese, a Laotian, a Thai citizen and a stateless person - were sentenced to death for the murder in October 2011 of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Thai side of the Mekong River. The sailors were on board two vessels flying the Chinese flag, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8. In May last year, the four were arrested by police in Laos and Beijing immediately demanded their extradition for trial, because they claimed the attack took place "in Chinese territory."

Chinese state television CCTV broadcast images of the men being taken from their cells to the place where the execution was scheduled to take place. However, the cameras have stopped moments before the four were handed over to the Executioner, in the death chamber. The face of the Burmese Naw Kham, the best known of the group, was devoid of expression. A trace of a smile only appeared as a guard read him his sentence.

Executions are a common practice in China: every year almost 5 thousand death sentences are carried out, but the real number - according to experts - could be far greater. Until 30 years ago it was common practice to parade the condemned in public before subjecting them to the firing squad. However, over time the practice has acquired a "private" character with only a few "witnesses" admitted into the death chamber, where the condemned are killed by lethal injection.

Human rights activists speak of an "affront to human dignity" and "unethical behavior, contrary to the spirit of the law." Some Internet users approve the move, but the majority of bloggers have expressed condemnation. For experts, the decision is "strongly symbolic", given that the TV is controlled by the Chinese leadership thus leaving "no doubt" that the "green light" to go ahead with the live broadcast was given by very highest levels of the Communist Party.


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